Peppers: A Story Of Hot Pursuits

Title: Peppers: A Story Of Hot Pursuits
Author: Amal Naj
Published: 1992 by Alfred A Knopf, Inc.
ISBN: 0-394-57077-4

Last summer we grew a whole bunch of peppers in our garden. The plan was to make some salsa out of them, and to that end it was a success. We made three batches of salsa and each was delicious. The jalapeños were the best pepper we had. Compared to the poblanos and green peppers, they were more abundant. The habeñeros barely started budding by the time it froze.

With that success under my belt I'm preparing to expand my pepper cultivation next year. I picked up this book hoping to further that goal. It turns out not to be so much about growing peppers like The Great Tomato Book was about tomatoes. But it was an interesting read nonetheless.

I'm having a hard time describing this book. The content seems a little disorganized, even forced. Kinda like my blog, no? It jumps around from a history of peppers, to current agricultural research, to fields in Texas, to Mexico, to India. There are stories about researchers hunting for the so called "mother pepper" from which all other originated, and of growers in New Mexico fighting viruses caused in part by limited genetic mutations.

One of the best stories is about tabasco peppers. I bet you didn't know there's a pepper named tabasco that originated from a region of Mexico by the same name. I didn't. The reason we all associate the name with the famous sauce is due to some clever and underhanded legal action by the McIlhenny Company. 150 years ago there were hundreds of tabasco pepper sauces, but McIlhenny was able to trick a series of judges that they had created the pepper, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Once they owned the trademark on "tabasco" they pushed everybody else out of business. Crazy, huh?

Also of interest where some bizarre uses of peppers, such as that "Incas burned heaps of dried red peppers in the paths of invading Spaniards to temporarily blind them", or that "the British rubbed the hot Bahamian pepper into the eyes of mutinous slaves in the West Indies". I guess it makes sense when you consider how pungent the pepper is.

In honor of all this pepper knowledge I decided to make some jalapeño mayonaisse. I started with three firm jalapeños and roasted them under the broiler in the oven. Then I peeled, chopped and mashed them. I wasn't sure how much mayonaisse to add, so I just spooned it in until it looked good. I think I ended up using about 1/2 cup. Tastes great on sandwiches. Not very hot, but has a nice jalapeño flavor.


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